The election of 2012 left many of us feelings disappointed and depressed. We retained Republican control in Wisconsin, but somehow what happened in the national election trumps the happiness we should be feeling at home.
So now, our people are regularly complaining about their disappointment in their Republican elected officials because they are not doing more - faster. Perhaps my past two years of elected experience can shed some light on what is going on as well as some encouragement.
When I was first sworn in, you would be hard pressed to find another legislator who wanted to move change faster than myself. Many referred to me as impatient, which I was. Government is EXTREMELY slow and the process thrives on wasting time. All I wanted to do was fix Madison and get home to run my business and raise my teenagers.
You might remember how quickly we moved to end collective bargaining for public workers, the bill now known as Act 10. Some say, including Governor Walker, that perhaps we should have taken more time to educate the public on the problem and why Act 10 was the only solution. Perhaps we would not have had the hundreds of thousands of protesters in Madison and the recall elections.
Roughly 20 percent of Republican voters listen to talk radio, watch Fox News, and stay informed about pressing issues. We are not the norm Most voters are consumed with their everyday life, their kids, their job, and their T.V. shows to which they turn for a moment's escape. They don’t really care about politics.
We know most Americans agree with us philosophically. If we want to change government effectively, we must take some time to educate the average voter on the issues before we act. If the GOP just runs through legislation and goes home, and if the average voter does not understand why they did it, the GOP could easily lose control in Wisconsin in the next election. The Democrats will simply undo every change next cycle and move us further down the road to liberalism.
Just because you don’t see protesters at the Capitol or hear Democrats yelling at Republicans, does not mean Republicans are going soft or that they aren’t working on legislation to grow jobs and our economy. We need to be patient. We are so fortunate in Wisconsin that Republicans control all 3 branches of government. We certainly need to stay in regular contact with our representatives to make sure they know that we expect them to stay true to their campaign promises, but be patient. We have two years to educate and legislate and I have great faith my former colleagues will get the job done.
Now, we are not as fortunate in Washington. It is very hard to watch what is happening with our nation’s debt. Our spending is out of control and we wonder how anyone out there can sleep with themselves at night knowing the financial burden they hold over our children and grandchildren’s heads!
What can the Republicans do? Almost nothing, at least legislatively, in Washington. When Sen. Ron Johnson was first elected in 2010, he went to Washington to try and fix it. Well, when you are in the minority, you can kick and scream and yell and shout all you want and you can do nothing. Let me repeat, when you are in the minority you can do nothing to change legislation unless the public supports you.
The majority party elects the leadership. The leadership decides who the committee chairs are and which bills will have a hearing and which bills won’t see the light of day. . The majority party decides when they will be in Session and when they will be home. The minority party has the right to be heard, but at the end of the day, the majority gets their way.
The majority of Americans elected President Obama and put the Democrats in charge of the U.S. Senate. . Sen. Johnson can brilliantly write for the Wall Street Journal, educate like-minded voters on talk radio and Fox News, and yet he can do nothing legislatively to stop an Obama appointee or his liberal agenda.
Knowing that the majority is everything in politics, perhaps a Republican that votes with you 75% of the time is your friend because the Democrat who will never vote with you is not. You probably wouldn’t have heard me say that two years ago but it could not be more true. We Republicans need to accept that every Republican doesn’t need to have a 100% conservative voting record. Maybe their district won’t support that. A majority of Republicans is the only way to stop the Democrats and their liberal agenda.
So as one retired legislator, I am very thankful that Republicans retained control in Wisconsin. Let this be a lesson to all of us, we all must do a better job of educating the average voter – not just our own people on our own email lists and our like-minded churches and clubs. We have not lost our country yet. We have two years to do some teaching to the masses so let’s get started.
Michelle Litjens is a former state legislator from Oshkosh. You can follow her on twitter @michellelitjens.